Malaysia’s Ministry of Health, along with nationwide palliative care providers, launched its first National Palliative Care Policy and Strategic Plan (2019-2030) on the 6th of November at Hospital Selayang in Kuala Lumpur.
It is estimated that over 100,000 Malaysians who die each year require palliative care and by the year 2030, that figure is projected to rise to 230,000.
At present there are only 21 trained palliative care specialists in Malaysia and five specialised palliative care units. Training programmes have been developed to generate more skilled human resources, including doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals.
The National Palliative Care Policy was developed because the Malaysian government, as well as experts in the field of palliative care, agreed that more needs to be done to ensure that all Malaysians will receive the proper care that is needed to ensure comfort and dignity whenever they face a life-limiting illness.
Embarking on a policy to develop nationwide palliative care services will require a large amount of resources and will require collaboration between the government and other stakeholders, including universities, medical schools, civil society groups, NGO hospices, private healthcare services, corporate bodies and the general Malaysian public.
“I believe that everything in this policy can be made into a reality if we all work together and realise how every single person can contribute and make a difference to care and share in the simple things that can mean so much to those in need,” said Dr Richard Lim, the national advisor for palliative medicine in the ministry of health.
Home-based care or community palliative care is a vital component of palliative care services in the country. Over the past 28 years, these services have been provided for mainly by charitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
At present there are only 30 such NGOs, including Hospis Malaysia and members of the Malaysian Hospice Council, which provide home care services completely free of charge. These services, however, are very limited and only cover larger urban areas.
Funding is lacking for further expansion and the government is therefore looking at ways to collaborate further and enhance these services. Since 2016, the Ministry of Health has started a domiciliary palliative care programme that is now available in a number of states, including: Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Pulau Pinang. Part of the policy’s strategic plan is to further develop domiciliary palliative care services to encompass the entire country over the next five years.
“Palliative care is something that will involve all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it is for ourselves or for someone we love dearly, we will all face a time where sickness or old-age will inevitably force us to face our mortality and when that time comes, we must have a system in place that serves as a safety net to ensure that everyone will be supported, comforted and cared for properly till the very end,” said Dr Lim.